On a day where the Winnipeg Jets roster is being completely re-worked, there is one change that I believe fans will look back on for years to come. No, it is not choosing to let free agents like Lee Stempniak or Jim Slater walk away from the team. Nor is it bringing back Alexander Burmistrov after a couple years in the KHL. I’m not even talking about losing free agent Michael Frolik to the Calgary Flames, in fact the decision that I question the most is not re-signing Eric O’Dell, leaving him free to sign with the Ottawa Senators.
O’Dell was second round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2009, after being traded to Atlanta later that year he has spent almost his entire career in the Winnipeg Jets farm system. O’Dell got his first real chance at pro hockey with the Jets former AHL affiliate in St. Johns. He played 39 games in 2011-2012, his rookie campaign and managed 22 points. Not bad for a guy in his first season playing with men. Over the last three seasons, O’Dell has been one of the go to players for the Ice Caps, averaging nearly a point a game over those three years and being a force every time he stepped in the ice. Though only 6 feet tall, O’Dell plays like a much bigger player. He is a power forward with great hands around the net and great vision in the offensive zone.
O’Dell managed to make his way to the NHL a few times over the years in the Jets organization, playing in 41 games and managing eight points. His numbers were not great but I think that is mostly due to the kind of minutes O’Dell was given. For the majority of his time with the big club, O’Dell was playing on the fourth line and not getting any kind of real minutes. O’Dell will not be a top player in the NHL and will most likely never score 30 goals, even 20 may be a stretch, but given an opportunity he can be a huge asset.
The team that is hoping he is, is the Ottawa Senators who signed him today to two way deal worth $700,000 in the NHL and $300,000 in the AHL. The Senators will be a great landing spot for O’Dell who should have a chance to compete for an NHL position this year. The Sens top six is pretty solid at the moment but there are still openings after that, and if O’Dell can impress during training camp it is not out of the question that you may see him on the third line. If O’Dell gets that opportunity he has the chance to put up a big season, and turn himself into a full time NHL player. Nothing is certain in the world of professional hockey, but if you have watched O’Dell play, he has the skill to be a very good NHL player, and if he turns into a productive third or fourth liner for Ottawa, the Jets will regret letting him walk away for nothing.
Born and raised Winnipeg sports fan and contributor with The Hockey Writers.